Person of the week: Dr. William Frankland MBE – The Allergy Hero

Person of the week: Dr. William Frankland

The extraordinary life of Dr. William Frankland, Honorary President of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, led him to have St. Mary’s Hospital Allergy unit named after him and the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology to give an award in his name. Now 104 years old, Dr. Frankland has dedicated his life to the field of allergy.

Having studied at Oxford University and St. Mary’s Medical School, Dr. Frankland enlisted in the Royal Medical Corp at the outbreak of the Second World War. He spent the latter part of his service in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. Returning in 1946 he took a full time position in the Allergy department of St. Mary’s Hospital.

He also took a part time role with the department of allergic disorders with Alexander Fleming (who discovered penicillin) in the Wright-Fleming Institute. He would later contribute to some of Fleming’s books.


The Pollen Count
Dr Frankland made a great discovery in 1954 when having seen thousands of patients with seasonal symptoms, they began trials which found that antihistamine tablets neither helped nor increased levels of pollen asthma. The findings were published under the heading “Prophylaxis of summer Hay-fever and Asthma”. He undertook an investigation to try to characterise allergens and antibodies. The results showed that hay fever and asthma suffers who were given preseason injections of pollen protein had greatly reduced symptoms during the hay fever season. This led to the pollen count being released on a daily basis by the media.



Risking his life
Dr. Frankland took part in self-experimentation. Working with the London Tropical School of Medicine he investigated the concept of desensitiation. He chose to be bitten by an insect at weekly intervals and aimed to become desensitised as the experiment was conducted. However by the eighth week he was bitten for a final time and went into severe anaphylaxis. It took three shots of adrenaline to bring him out of it. He later said that it was worth it in light of the risks involved.

In the late 1970s Dr. Frankland was asked by the Iraqi embassy (when Britain was on good terms with the country) to treat Saddam Hussein who was believed to be suffering from asthma as a result of a mould spore allergy. His doctors were treating him with desensitising injections. Dr. Frankland was asked to meet the leader and he realised that there was no allergy or asthma but side-effects from heavy smoking. He told Hussein that if he did not stop smoking then he would not return to treat him. A risky move considering this was a man who had one of his Ministers of Health shot. He however did take the advice and this shows the respect Dr. Franklands commands as an expert in his field.